In discussion with NATO Secretary General (SG) Jens Stoltenberg at the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) on 13 July in Brussels, SEDE Vice-Chair Rasa Juknevičienė congratulated NATO on the historic decisions taken at the Madrid Summit and noted that NATO’s new defence plans need to be in line with the new threat assessment.
“While Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine continues, Alliance members have united, demonstrated resolve and reaffirmed transatlantic unity. The updated Strategic Concept adopted by NATO has set new benchmarks for the Alliance,” said Ms Juknevičienė, “At the Lisbon Summit in 2010, I was concerned that NATO had failed to assess threats realistically. The Madrid update finally identifies Russia as the most significant and immediate threat. These are lessons learned, congratulations.”
The MEP stressed that it is crucial that NATO’s new defence plans are in line with the new threat assessment and asked the NATO Secretary General whether this new wording means that NATO’s new defence plans will be adapted to meet the Russian threat and how will this happen in practice?
According to Ms Juknevičienė, the summit reinforced the Alliance’s open-door policy by inviting Sweden and Finland to join NATO and strengthening cooperation with partners in the Asia-Pacific region. The MEP said that we are witnessing the birth of a strong NATO military – the Ukrainian army – and that Europe’s strategic compass today is fighting Ukraine.
“As a Lithuanian MEP, I am particularly pleased to see a strong message being sent to Putin’s Russia and the decisions to re-establish a credible deterrent on the eastern flank. However, there is still a lot to be done – airspace is not sufficiently protected,” stressed the SEDE vice-chairwoman.
Regarding the Madrid Summit, NATO SG Stoltenberg said it was truly historic and identified four key decisions.
“First of all, we agreed to increase support to Ukraine. NATO members are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
He said that the country is receiving assistance in modernising its weapons and switching from Soviet to NATO-compatible weapons. Long-term support will also be provided to build security and defence institutions.
Stoltenberg stressed that it costs money to provide support, but it will cost even more not to support Ukraine.
He said it is also a moral issue because a sovereign, independent state with a population of more than 40 million has been brutally attacked by Russia.
“It is in our interest to help Ukraine, and you have to understand that if Ukraine loses, it puts all of us at risk and makes Europe more vulnerable to Russian aggression,” the secretary general said. Because if there is no retaliation, then the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the military intervention in Donbas, and the invasion of Ukraine launched by Putin in February all mean that the aggressor is free to do whatever it wants by force.
“That is why you have to pay for the humanitarian aid to Ukraine, for the impact of the sanctions because if you don’t, the price will only be higher in the future,” said Stoltenberg.
He also stressed that NATO is not directly involved in this war but only supports an important partner, Ukraine. On defence developments, the NATO SG referred to the increased capacity on the Eastern flank of the Alliance, the doubling of the number of Battle Groups in the Baltic States, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, and the increase in the number of troops in Battle Groups.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO has increased its troop numbers on the Eastern Flank to 42,000, supported by a high readiness force planned to increase to 300,000.
Other MEPs who spoke at the hearing called for increased pressure on European governments to support Ukraine with weaponry.